Mass Gainer vs Whey Protein: What’s the Difference and Can You Take Them Together?

Image of a man scooping out protein powder from a tub

Some people say scrap your supplement stack and just go with whey protein. Other people say never start a bulk without a mass gainer.

But who's right?

It's no secret that we're big fans of weight gainers for bulking. But in today's mass gainer vs whey protein debate, we evaluate both sides of the argument, to which is the best, and which is best each goal.

Should You Take A Mass Gainer Or Whey Protein For Bulking?

While protein is essential for muscle growth of all levels, it is your calorie surplus that determines how much weight you will gain, and whether you will even gain weight at all.

Although it's possible for hard working lifters to gain muscle in a calorie deficit, you won't be heavier unless you're in a surplus. Besides, the muscle mass you build in a calorie deficit isn't as impressive as the size you can build while you're bulking.

For this reason, a mass gainer is a better supplement than whey protein for bulking. The hardgainer doesn't have the luxury of gaining Serious Mass with just a couple of protein shakes a day — they need calories, and they need them in their hundreds, if not thousands at a time.

As the monotony of your bulking regime kicks in, foods that once tasted like heaven while cutting, now seem like a curse from above, and no matter how hard you try, eating more food just isn't possible. If only you'd bought a mass gainer rather than whey…

Image of chocolate and vanilla whey shakes

How About A Mass Gainer Or Whey Protein After A Workout?

As for stimulating protein synthesis — the force behind muscle growth — there's not a whole lot of difference between the two. However, protein synthesis is just a dull chemical signal. For it to turn into muscle growth, it checks that you have a few fundamentals in place:

  • Is there the correct training stimulus?
  • Do we have enough amino acids?
  • Is there enough available energy?

While weight training is the primary driver of muscle growth, it won't take place unless you have amino acids and excess energy. Now, your muscles aren't very picky when it comes to amino acids. They can get them from whey, mass gainers, or even chicken breast. But as for creating excess energy to trigger weight gain, a mass gainer beats whey protein every single time.

Image of a shirtless man drinking a workout shake

It Depends On Your Body Fat

Do you think it's more convenient for your body to take the energy it needs from your fat tissue or the muscle mass that requires so much physical energy for it to grow?

The more body fat you have, the less chance there is of your body breaking down your precious muscle tissue  — because it already has so much fat for fuel. So, in this case, go with a regular whey protein supplement.

However, if you're on the skinnier side, and especially if you're a hardgainer, go with a mass gainer after training, to encourage your body to grow muscle, not break it down.

The 3 Types Of People Who Should Consider Taking A Weight Gainer

Image of a muscular man stood next to a slim man


Hardgainers

While having a high metabolism is something the average person dreams of, it's not much use for gaining weight, let alone muscle. Protein, above all other foods, is particularly filling, and if you're an ectomorph with a weak appetite, meeting your high caloric needs through regular foods alone is really impractical.

Frequent trainers

The more times you workout throughout the week, the higher the number of calories you burn, and the more fuel your body needs to grow. It's easy to recover from 2 or 3 short sessions, but more training demands extra calories, and taking a weight gainer can help you cope with the extra physical strain.

Mixed Athletes

If you combine weight training with cardiovascular activity, then you probably have a higher caloric need than most of the population. Depleted muscle glycogen stores need replenishing to maintain peak performance, which is especially true if you're training twice a day, or on back to back days.

Do you think anyone ever broke a sprinting world record with depleted quads?

Product

Strengths

Our Rating

Price

#1 Naked Mass

Protein

50g


Calories

1250


Strength

The Best of the Best

#2 Serious Mass

Protein

50g


Calories

1250


Strength

The Best Value

#3 True Mass

Protein

46g


Calories

700


Strength

The Best tasting

#4 Pro Gainer

Protein

60g


Calories

650


Strength

Best Lean Gainer

#5 MP Combat XL

Protein

50g


Calories

1270


Best For

Good But Not The Best

Who Should Stick With Protein Shakes

There's no denying that with the right work ethic and diet knowhow, mass gainers can get you impressive results. However, they are most certainly not for everyone.

Here's who should avoid weight gain supplements:

a sporty woman having a protein shake after her workout

Competing bodybuilders

Even the most bro-ish of gym bros know that weight gain powders are a horrible idea during contest prep. When you're calories are that low, I'd go so far as to say don't even drink protein shakes, stick with whole food because it's more satisfying.

Protein Powder

Strengths

Our Rating

Price

#1 Naked Whey

Protein

25g


Calories

110-160


Best For

The Best of the Best

#2 Combat Powder

Protein

25g


Calories

130


Best For

The Budget Choice

#3 Gold Standard Whey

Protein

24g


Calories

110-130


Best For

The Best all-rounder

#4 BSN Syntha-6

Protein

22g


Calories

200


Best For

The Best Tasting

#5 Isopure Zero Carb

Protein

25g


Calories

100


Best For

Weight Loss

So, What's The Difference Between Mass Gainer And Whey Protein?

Ingredients

A good whey protein powder usually has a few grams of fats and carbs at the most. On the other hand, I've tried weight gainers with anywhere from 50, to 450 grams of carbs per serving.

Yes, you read that right.

I once tried a mass gainer with 450 grams of carbs, it was like drinking all my daily meals in one shake. Definitely not something I recommend doing more than once in your lifetime.

Although weight gainers usually have more protein overall, they have a much lower protein to carbs ratio. A tub of whey can easily have 15 times as much protein than carbs, but a weight gainer often has 2-5 times more carbs than protein. That’s not really surprising, they perform entirely different functions for the body!

Taste And Flavors

Being naturally much higher in calories, you'd be forgiven for thinking that mass gainers taste better than whey, but in my experience, they taste pretty much the same.

How?

Well, they both utilize artificial sweeteners to flavor their powder. A sweetener like stevia or sucralose both tastes the same whether they're in a gainer or a protein shake.

That said, brands probably use more sweetener in their mass gain mixtures than whey proteins simply because there is more powder that needs flavoring.

Fun fact: a lot of people think that weight gainers taste sweet because of maltodextrin when in reality, it's one of the plainest tasting carb sources there is.

Image of a bar of chocolate

Value For Money

This is best illustrated with an example.

Check out the comparison chart below. Despite Serious Mass being over twice the size of Gold Standard Whey, it has 58 fewer servings!

Yes, you read that right.

You get 58 less serving with the mass gainer. So, if you're on a budget, stick with whey, and get your calories from food.

The Verdict

Overall, both supplements can put muscle on your frame, and help you get strong. The best choice for you comes down to your goals and your current physique.

Skinny and wanting to grow muscle?  Then go with a mass gainer.

Are you overweight and looking to shape up? Get a decent protein powder, and put yourself in a calorie deficit.

If you have the budget, and you don't have a load of extra body fat to lose, you might well benefit taking both supplements to maximize muscle growth.

We hope you enjoyed our mass gainer vs whey protein debate. Hopefully, it helps you decide which product to go for. You can see our supplements page to learn more.

 

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Jonathan Abbott
Jonathan Abbott
Jonathan is a long time fitness enthusiast who specializes in helping others reach their goals faster with the most up to date sports science. When he's not working, you'll find him challanging his body with heavy squats and deadlifts.

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